The New York Jets parted ways with right tackle Wayne Hunter by trading him to the St. Louis Rams for their right tackle Jason Smith. The move came as no surprise to Jets fans who have been calling for Hunter's head since the late season collapse of 2011. Smith joined Gang Green with the intent of bolstering their offensive line and providing depth at the weak right tackle position.
Jets fans saw a brief glimpse of Smith in the final preseason game on Thursday night. He played for the first half of the game, giving up no sacks and making no glaring mistakes despite just having one meeting with the offensive staff.
"I'm just working diligently with Coach and learning," spoke Smith before the game. "It's one of those things where I just have to reapply everything I've learned in the last four years and make sure I'm productive."
Coach Rex Ryan also had nothing but praise for his new tackle.
"I thought he held up well considering he had been here for one meeting," Ryan said after his team's 28-10 loss to Philadelphia. "I was proud to see that young man compete like he did."
Smith is coming to New York with three years of NFL experience under his belt. He was selected second overall in the 2009 NFL draft. The addition gives the Jets their second top five selection of the draft, having taken quarterback Mark Sanchez fifth overall that same year.
Coming into the draft, Smith was lauded as being an elite tackle. He put up stellar numbers at the rookie combine, shattering the numbers of his fellow offensive linemen. Smith posted a 5.09 second time for the 40 yard dash, good for 11th among offensive linemen. He also tied for fourth in the bench press and sixth in the cone drill. He also scored fairly well on the Wonderlic Test and drew comparisons to Ryan Clady, a two-time Pro Bowler currently protecting Peyton Manning in Denver.
Smith has failed to live up to the hype surrounding him coming out of Baylor. He is credited with the most career knockdown blocks for the Bears and is the highest drafted player (along with 2012 second overall pick Robert Griffin III) out of the Waco institution. As a senior, he was selected as an All-American and All-Big 12 Conference.
Smith comes with some baggage, however. He has suffered numerous setbacks that have detracted from his overall ability. While at Baylor, Smith suffered from nagging knee problems that caused him to miss much of his sophomore season. Later, in just his first year with the Rams, the former Baylor Bear suffered a concussion that kept him sidelined for half of the season. Smith hopes that a fresh start with a new team will revitalize and elevate him into the productive player that he used to be.
"It's kind of like turning a new page of the chapter," admitted Smith. "I'm happy to be a Jet."